Foodborne Illness and Naked Self-Interest

Well, we’re nearing winter time, and that means…norovirus! Which is also known as winter vomiting disease and is every bit as fun as it sounds.

When it comes to sick leave, I am utterly baffled by conservative opposition to it. Even if you believe workers should essentially have the rights of serfs–which is to say, very few–one would think that they wouldn’t want someone to serve them an extra side order of norovirus (or influenza. Or hepatitis). As long as we don’t give workers the ability to take paid sick leave, they will show up to work sickthey can’t afford not to do so (boldface mine):

Fifty-one percent of food workers — who do everything from grow and process food to cook and serve it — said they “always” or “frequently” go to work when they’re sick, according to the results of a survey released Monday. An additional 38 percent said they go to work sick “sometimes.”

That’s a practice that can have serious public health consequences. For instance, as The Salt reported last year, the vast majority of reported cases of norovirus — the leading cause of foodborne disease outbreaks and illnesses across the country — have been linked to infected food industry workers.

But it’s not as if these sick food workers are careless. Nine out of 10 workers polled in the new survey said they feel responsible for the safety and well-being of their customers. Yet about 45 percent said they go to work sick because they “can’t afford to lose pay.” And about 46 percent said they do it because they “don’t want to let co-workers down.”

This doesn’t even rise to the level of enlightened self-interest: this is stark naked self-interest.

Maybe this is what conservatives mean when they say, “Freedom isn’t free.”

Just bonkers.

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